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Border Collie vs. Australian Shepherd: Breed Differences & Similarities


Last Updated: February 25, 2023 | 10 min read | 23 Comments

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Are you curious about the differences and similarities between the Border Collie vs. the Australian Shepherd? These active breeds look very similar but are quite different dogs. They have similar breeding purposes but come from different lines of dogs.

Both dogs are shepherding dogs, so be prepared to have lots of energy and activities planned to keep your puppy busy! Both dogs are adorable as pups and sure to bring your family a happy family dog. These pups have become popular designer dogs when the breeds are mixed.

If you’re on the hunt for a clever canine but can’t quite decide between the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a look at the differences and similarities between these two super intelligent and adorable dogs.

Breed Comparison

Border Collie

  • Height 18-22 Inches
  • Weight 25-55 Pounds
  • Temperament Smart, Work-Oriented, Energetic
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $700 and Up

Australian Shepherd

  • Height 18-23 Inches
  • Weight 40-65 Pounds
  • Temperament Smart, Work-Oriented, Sociable
  • Energy Very High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 12-15 Years
  • Price $700 and Up

Key Differences

  1. Border Collies are more intelligent.
  2. Australian Shepherds come in fewer colors, only four. Border Collies can be many colors.
  3. Border Collies are better at herding.
  4. Australian Shepherds are more popular.
  5. Border Collies are slightly smaller. They weigh 25 to 55 pounds, while the Australian Shepherd weighs 40 to 65.
  6. Australian Shepherds are prone to heterochromia.
  7. They come from different places. Border Collies are traced to the Anglo-Scottish border. Australian Shepherds were bred in North America.
  8. Border Collies are needier but more focused. They also require more grooming.

Breed History

To the average eye, these guys look like brother and sister, and as they are both intelligent herding dogs, they could almost be mistaken for the same litter. Despite these similarities, there are some differences that set these guys apart. Not only does their history separate these two breeds, but so does the sea between their continents.

Border Collie

Dog With Herd of Sheep
Border Collies were bred as herding dogs thousands of years ago.

To understand the Border Collie, we need a quick history lesson: the Romans invaded Britain in 43 A.D. Shortly after, the Vikings invaded the Romans. A fairly quick story.

Possibly the shortest history lesson ever, but it is important here because the Border Collie was bred from Roman’s large herding dogs and the Viking’s proceeding herding dog, which we know to be the Icelandic Sheepdog.

Today’s Border Collie is agile and intelligent, bred to herd and work the rocky terrain of Wales and Scotland. Because of the good nature of the Border Collie, they are a popular dog to cross with other dog breeds to make “designer dogs” like the Borador.

Veterinarians have called the Border Collie as the most intelligent dog breed in the world, and if you have ever seen them in action, then it is easy to see why. They are the Einstein of dogs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has ranked the Border Collie as the 31st  most popular dog in America.

Australian Shepherd

Dog Standing in Front of Herd of Sheep
Aussies were also bred as herding dogs and are thought to be descendants of Border Collies.

The Australian Shepherd dog has a somewhat confusing history, and there is much debate about where he comes from. The most agreed-upon theory is that his ancestors were from the Pyrenees in Spain and the Scottish Highlands, whose shepherds sailed to Australia in search of better land.

The settlers realized they could not farm as they had wished due to central Australia’s arid landscape, and so they sailed to North America, along with other shepherds from Australia. They are often compared to the Australian Cattle dog.

It is believed that it was in North America that Americans created their perfect herding dog using the previously mentioned breeds. It is presumed that as they had just arrived from Australia, they named him the Australian Shepherd. However, he is no more Australian than he is Spanish or Scottish, and really is more American!

Australian Shepherds are also popular with the designer dog crowd, being bred recently with the Labrador to create the Aussiedor breed.

The Australian Shepherd is used to herd sheep and cattle alongside the tough cowboys that created them. However, this cowboy’s comrade is also a popular family dog and has been ranked as the 12th most popular breed by the AKC.


Two Dogs on a Rock in Front of a Mountain
The Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are often confused with one another.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd look very similar. This might be because the Australian Shepherd was bred from the Collie centuries ago, although this is not officially recorded.

They are both considered medium-sized dogs and almost the same height, give or take one inch. The Australian Shepherd is heavier at an average of 10 pounds.

The colors in which the two breeds are available vary. The Border Collie comes in a wider variety of colors:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Blue Merle
  • Brindle
  • Gold
  • Lilac
  • Red
  • Red Merle
  • Sable
  • Sable Merle
  • Saddleback Sable
  • White and Black
  • White and Blue
  • White and Blue Merle
  • White and Red
  • White and Red Merle
  • White Ticked

Whereas the Australian Shepherd is officially recognized in only four colors:

  • Black
  • Blue Merle
  • Red
  • Red Merle

Further to the variety of colors, there are also several different markings that their coat can take on. The Collie has seven different markings, and the Australian Shepherd has only three. The Collie clearly wins in the color contest. However, with all the different color variations on both breeds, more so than your average pooch, you really are spoiled for choice.

The Collie’s coat can come in both short and rough varieties, and his tail is long and plumed. The Australian Shepherd’s coat is usually long and dense with an undercoat and an outer coat to protect him from the elements. The Australian’s tail is usually long; however, he is sometimes naturally born with a bobbed tail.

The Australian Shepherd’s eyes can come in many different colors, and he is likelier to have one eye of each color than the Collie. This is called heterochromia.


Dogs Panting in Grass
Both breeds are highly energetic, brilliant, and friendly.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are intelligent workaholics. Their minds rarely rest and must both be stimulated throughout the day. However, high energy can also mean a lot of fun. As long as you have the energy to keep playing, you will never run out of things to do with either of these guys around. Fetch, football, or frisbee, both these guys are the champion of them all.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are sociable creatures. The Border Collie, like the Australian Shepherd, can become very attached to their family and are very loving. However, the Border Collie is more likely to be wary of strangers or those with who he is not familiar yet. Generally, the Australian Shepherd is the heart and soul of the party and gets along with everyone immediately.

The Collie is said to have superior herding instincts to that of the Australian Shepherd, and they have been known to attempt herding small children or other pets in the household. So, if you have a young family or other pets, this is something to consider. However, if you stimulate and train them correctly, this is unlikely to happen.

The Australian Shepherd can be slightly more dependable on his humans than the Collie, so the Aussie can suffer from separation anxiety. Anti-anxiety medication, crate training, and soothing music can help to alleviate his anxiety, but ultimately this pooch is more suited to those who can spend a lot of time with him.


Dogs Running Through Agility Courses
The best way for both breeds to burn energy is through physical activities with mental stimulation, like agility courses.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are high-energy dogs. You may want to consider other breeds if you cannot give these guys time and intense activity. To ensure that neither of the breeds becomes bored, you could train them to herd, but if you don’t happen to live on a farm, you can do other things to entertain them.

Firstly, they both need at least 60 minutes of high-level exercise daily. But it doesn’t stop there. They will need to be stimulated throughout the day, either through sociable tug-of-war games or agility sports such as frisbee or doggy training courses.

If you must leave your pup alone for a few hours, then be sure to leave out a puzzle treat toy because if either of these dogs becomes restless, they will embark on a mission of destruction.


Dogs Outdoors on an Autumn Day
Because both breeds are so bright, they are relatively easy to train.

As the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are such intelligent pups, they pick up commands quickly and are relatively easy to train. With that being said, these guys are not for the novice owner. As they are so intelligent, they require a lot of effort, so if you do not rise to the challenge, it will not be long until they outsmart you or become bored.

The Border Collie is sometimes known to have a protective streak. They can often be wary of strangers and other animals. Socialization from a young age is important for raising any well-mannered pup, but particularly for pooches who can be over-protective or aggressive.

In order to raise an obedient canine companion, positive reinforcement training is the key. Follow these four simple steps:

  • Choose short words, such as ‘sit,’ ‘come,’ ‘stay,’ etc., for the desired behaviors that you want to teach. Consistency is important, so ensure that everyone who interacts with your pup also uses the exact same command words.
  • As soon as your pooch performs the desired behavior, reward him immediately with a small treat and verbal praise. In the early stages, this means treats should always be handy and initially make a big positive fuss.
  • Gradually reduce the number of treats once your dog begins to learn the command, but continue to praise him every time verbally.
  • Positive reinforcement training should be consistent and maintained to ensure he keeps up the good work.


Dogs at the Vet
Both breeds are generally quite healthy dogs, and there are no major concerns or health problems to be aware of above the average pup.

As with a lot of dogs, both breeds are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia later in life, which is where the affected joints are abnormally formed and can cause painful arthritis. They are also susceptible to eye problems such as Progressive Renal Atrophy, Cataracts, and Collie Eye Anomaly (which is actually more prevalent in the Aussies than the Collies).

Another health issue that affects both breeds is Multi-Drug Sensitivity. Simply put, this is where the gene that transports certain prescribed drugs out of or away from the brain is faulty, and the toxicity of the drugs poisons them. When you visit the veterinarian, be sure to remind them that they are sufferers of MDS just to be on the safe side.

Roughly 10% of Border Collies are said to be born with Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome. This is where white blood cells are not released correctly from the bone marrow, which in turn prevents the immune system from fighting diseases. Most Collies develop symptoms of this at around seven months of age and can die shortly after. A DNA swab can identify if they are suffering from this syndrome at an early age.

Ensure that before you purchase any pup, you ask the breeder for the parent’s health certificates, particularly regarding the health issues above, as this is the best way to identify any health issues in your pup. If the breeder cannot or will not provide them, this is a sure sign that something is wrong.


Dogs Posing Next to Dog Bowls
Since both breeds are highly active dogs, high-calorie kibble is recommended.

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are similar in regard to nutrition. They will both eat approximately 2.5 cups a day of good quality, high-calorie food. If they are very active, then they may need slightly more than this, or less if they aren’t as active.

Both the Collie and the Aussie aren’t particularly food orientated, and they would much rather work for a reward such as a ball. Therefore, neither of these guys is likely to develop obesity compared to other breeds.


Lounging Dogs on a Dirt Path
The Border Collie has a slightly rougher coat than the Aussie, which demands more of your attention.

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherds are active dogs, so they are likely to get dirty. Both breeds will require a monthly bath to keep them clean and in top condition. More frequent bathing will damage their coat’s natural oils, which can make their skin very dry and itchy. You can use doggy wipes or doggy dry shampoo between washes to keep them smelling fresh.

Since it is likely these guys will spend many hours a week running around fields and forests, they are prone to attract ticks and other nasty critters. Ticks attach themselves to dogs and feed off their blood. They can also carry Lyme Disease, which can be dangerous to dogs. Ticks will look like warts on your dog, so if you find any and you’re not sure how to remove them, visit your veterinarian, and they can show you how.

In regard to grooming, the Collie requires slightly more attention as he has a rougher coat than the Aussie. His coat will require brushing two or three times a week to keep it healthy and glossy and prevent knots from forming.

The Australian Shepherd has longer hair, but it is smoother, so he doesn’t require as much attention. A weekly brush will be enough to keep this pooch looking good.

The Aussie sheds about as much as a Border Collie, with just a different feel to their coat. Nail trimming, tooth brushing, and bathing are required just the same as any other dog.

Puppy Price

Puppies Running Outside
You can expect to pay more for either breed with more desirable traits.

The Border Collie, on average, costs around $700, as does the Australian Shepherd. You can expect to pay more for desirable traits or colors, such as the Merle coat color or different colored eyes. Male dogs tend to cost more if you want a working dog, as they tend to be slightly faster than females. Of course, if they are show quality, then you can expect to pay much more than the average.

If you prefer the look of the Australian Shepherd, but you are concerned about his size, fear not! Since the creation of the Aussie, American farmers also wanted a smaller version of him, so they created a mini version at 31 inches tall and weighing 30 pounds.

This little dude is known as a Miniature American Shepherd. Sometimes he is still called a Miniature Australian Shepherd, but only the Miniature American Shepherd can be registered with the AKC. Ultimately, they are the same dog. They cost, on average, $900, which is more expensive than their counterpart.

Final Thoughts

The Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd have got it all going for them; brains, beauty, strength, stamina, and much more. If they were on a dating website, both of these guys would surely round up all the ladies.

These guys are similar in appearance, almost the same height, and have long hair with many wild color options. They have a similar facial appearance, possibly because the Aussie was bred from the Collie.

They have the same energy levels and need at least 60 minutes of high-level activity daily. If you can’t offer this consistently, then neither of them is for you. They are both sociable and loving creatures who will shower you and your family with love and affection.

They do differ in weight, with the Aussie being, on average, 10 pounds heavier, and the Border Collie has a rougher coat, so he requires a bit more grooming than the Aussie. The Collie is warier of strangers, whereas the Aussie is more welcoming, but with this comes the Aussies tendency to suffer from separation anxiety slightly more.

They are both trainable and pick up commands extremely quickly. Both need to socialize from a young age, particularly with younger children or other household pets, and a Collie may try to herd them.

If you still can’t decide between the two breeds, then you could always look for a Border Collie crossed with an Australian Shepherd. With double brains and double cuteness, you will not be disappointed.

Either way, because both of these breeds are incredibly intelligent and so much fun, whichever breed you decide to choose, you’ll be sure to gain an entertaining and lovable addition to the family ranch!

Basket of Cream and Chocolate Puppies

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